The New Normal

Rules of Hockey

An umpire coaching video popped up on my Facebook Timeline a few days ago and this was inserted at the beginning of it.

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey which supports either of those statements. The passer’s responsibility for the consequences of his passing action does not end the moment he has raised the ball above and beyond near opponents, and the second statement could be a contradiction of the second clause of Rule 9.8 Dangerously Played ball which reads:-

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.
A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents.
The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.


(Note from where danger was caused which is NOT necessarily from where it occurred)

To state – as the text does – that the lifter of a ball will NEVER be penalised for the action of lofting the ball to fall onto/into a crowded space (and therefore a space occupied by players of opposing teams who might compete for the falling ball) when and where that action took place, is bizarre and utterly wrong.

When a player chooses to loft the ball with a scoop so that it will land on the position of a team-mate who is closely marked by an opponent, the passer has chosen to carry out an action that is potentially dangerous, because that opponent and the passer’s team-mate may choose to complete for the ball as it falls.

Rule 9.10 stipulates that in these circumstances the same team player must allow the opposing player to receive and control the ball. If he does not, but instead contests for the ball he has committed a dangerous play offence contrary to Rule 9.10, and the lifter of the ball (the passer) has committed an offence contrary to Rule 9.8.

A Free ball obviously cannot be awarded in two different places simultaneously so clearly the first offence (the lifting of the ball into a contested area) as the first offence, must be penalised first (with a Free ball or a penalty corner as appropriate (if for example, the ball was lofted from within the passer’s own 23m area, a penalty corner for a deliberate offence in that area). The second offence, (contesting for the falling ball) is a breaking down of play with deliberate dangerous play and should result in at least a Green Card for the offender. This would be both correct (Rule compliant) and fair.

When should a Free ball be awarded at the point the ball was landing? When and only when the same team player was in free space or made a lateral run to create space to receive a ball lofted to land wide of his position or more than 5m short of his position (if he is closely marked) or alternatively beyond his position AND an opponent who was 5m or more from the intended receiver at the time the ball was raised closed to within 5m of the intended receiver while the ball was in the air and/or before it had been controlled on the ground by the receiver (this intended receiver is in these circumstances i.e when in free space or moving into free space, as the overhead pass is made, referred to as the initial receiver).

What should happen if the ball is lofted to fall onto a position where two or more opposing players might contest for it? The intended receiver (the player of the same team as the passer) should allow an opposing player to receive the ball and play it into his control on the ground. An opponent must not interfere with or influence the play of the receiver while the ball is being so received.

Has there been an offence by the player who lofted the pass when his team-mate closes on an opposing initial receiver from beyond 5m? No, the situation was safe at the time the ball was raised. The sole offender in these circumstances is the team -mate who encroaches on the opponent.

Rule 9.8 stipulates offence when the overhead pass leads to actual dangerous play. A withdrawing action from the intended receiver (that allows the opponents to receive and control the ball on the ground) therefore nullifies the potentially dangerous play of the passer. Even if it was considered that there was an offence by the passer in these circumstances it would be unnecessary to impose penalty because opponents would not be disadvantaged by his reckless passing action, play should continue with advantage to the opposing team. However a word of caution from the umpire to the passer would not be amiss when potentially dangerous play like this occurs, even when danger is averted by third party action.

P.S. There is no launch pad for a pass (just as there is no “Covid roadmap”)

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